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tv   Charlie Rose  WHUT  October 20, 2009 11:00pm-12:00am EDT

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>> rose: welcome to the broadcast. we begin tonight with former secretary of state madeleine albright. >> i happen to think that we ed to remember why we went into afghanistan in the first place. it was over 9/11. and the people that hit us came from there, and therefore eliminating al qaeda in afghanistan is absolutely crucial. the question for me-- and i speak only for myself-- is to what extent does the taliban create a haven for al qaeda? >> rose: also this evening, taylor branch, the noted biographer of dr. martin luther king, jr. has written a new book called "the clinton tapes." >> i would get a call late in the afternoon usually at the last minute "can you come down tonight? there's a hole in his schedule. we don't want you in the west wing, we want you in the
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residence because we don't want the staff seeing you. come down late at night and bring your materials." and i would bring my notes and my two little recorders and go and sit and wait for him in some room in the residence, his dining room or the little kitchen. i would set up my recorders and say wherever he was ready "mr. president, this is session number... oral history number1 such and such a date, this is what's happened in the last month, let's start with so and so." and he would either say "the public record is pretty good on, that i don't have much to add to it." or he would say "that has absolutely nothing to do with what really happened. let me tell you what really happened." >> rose: a program note. we taped an interwith brian ross who's written a new book about bernie madoff. we'll show you that at another time. tonight deleine albright, second for bill clinton and bill clinton's friend taylor branch next.
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captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: madeleine albright is here. she became the first woman to serve as secretary of state served in that position during the clinton administration during the 2008 presidential campaign she was an advisor to hillary clinton who is now secretary of state. her latest book is called "read
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my pin, stories from a diplomat's jewel box." i am pleased to have her back at this table and she will understand that that we won't spend much time talking about jewelry. here's the cover of the book. give me the idea behind this. >> the idea was i was at the u.n. and as secretary of state i like pins and they give signals. and it all began because saddam hussein called me an unparalleled serpent and i had a snake pin. and i thought this is fun. so... but mostly, charlie, it gives me an opportunity to talk about foreign policy. >> rose: give me one example of that. >> well, for instance, i was negotiating the anti-ballistic missile treaty with the russian foreign minister. i had on a pin that looked like an arrow. >> rose: who was the foreign minuter? >> igor ivanov and he said "is that one of your missile interceptors?" and i said "yes, we make they will real small. let's negotiate." but what happens, when i go out on the book tour, people want to know something about what happens in our talks ocms contrt
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about whated in withdrawing the systems of out of the czech republic and poland. i think my niche is trying to explain foreign policy to people and the book fits. >> reporter: let me talk about the president now and the biggest foreign policy decision of his administration probably is what to do about afghanistan. give me your sense of how he might be looking at this and what you would recommend if you were part of the decision process. >> rose: >> well, let me say obviously it is a story that's been in the making for some time. he didn't begin the business in afghanistan and he is dealing with the remnants of what happened in the last eight years. i think that what is important, charlie, is i think that he is going about this in exactly the right way. in my previous book, which is a memo to the president-elect, i said that i wanted to see a confident president rather than a certain president. because a confident president is comfortable eliciting different ideas and looking at various
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sides of the issue. and, in fact, pushing his advisors to argue in front of him. and i think that is what president obama's doing versus what happened in the way we got into iraq where, in fact, the... it was not clear how the decisions were made. there was so kind of a parallel process. so right off i think that he's doing the right thing in the way that he's going about what is clearly a very serious decision. >> rose: he also seems comfortable in apologizing for american policy or conduct if, in fact, he thinks it's necessary. but he's not the first president to do that. in fact, president clinton did that. >> well, i think it's important to tell the truth and to accept responsibility. and i think that it has improved the status and staff stature of the united states. i mean, there are a lot of... i travel a lot, and there is no question that he is highly respected for really telling it like it is and letting people understand that americans have a certain amount of humility. >> rose: but you in your
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administration and the president talked about americae indispensable nation. he doesn't seem to do that. >> well, first of all, you have to understand what we meant with the indispensable nation. the reason... president clinton said it first but then i said it so often that it became more identified with me. and it was right after the end of the cold war. and i thought... and if you remember, that was whole discussion about the peace dividend and we would only worry about ouelves and i thought and i still do that the world is better off if america is actively engaged in trying to work with others on solving problems. and i do believe in that way that we have to be engaged, but there is nothing about the word indispensable that is defined as a loan. and so i do think that the world is better off when the u.s. is helping in terms of trying to deal with iran on nuclear nonproliferation or trying to really... sfuch so you didn't
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read it as... you didn't intend it in your usage of it as american exceptionalism? >> no, but i'll tell you about american exceptionalism. i was not born in this country and i really do think that u.s. is an exceptional country. in many different ways, in terms of our diversity, our capabilities. what i have argued against is that exceptions cannot be made for us. and that is what.... >> rose: exceptions? >> right. i think we are exceptional but we can't act that we are above the law or that our behavior is different in terms of human rights issues or in terms of torture or... >> but the president says that every country has reason to think it's exceptional. >> well, probably yes. >> rose: not every, but many. >> well, i think there is such a thing as national identity and national pride. but the way i've looked at american history-- and i talk only about my own life-- i was born in czechoslovakia. the united states had nothing to do with the really seminal event which was munich where the
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british, french, italians made a deal with hitler over the heads of thefoslovakia. the u.s. was not involved. help the the u.s. came into world war ii and everything changed. and then the u.s. and agreements that were made during world war ii allowed central and eastern europe to be quote liberat by the read army and things went bad. so from my own experience, i think it is important to have the u.s. engaged. and i do believe there are way it is u.s. can help in other countries. i am as an american and as somebody who has been a decision maker obviously most concerned about u.s. national interests. and i think we're better off if other countries can function. >> rose: has this president more than any president you've seen before, including those you, you know, knew well, been able to define american purpose better and american understand of the world and america's desire to
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engage the world. i'm thinking in terms of the speech of nuclear proliferation. i'm thinking of the speech in cairo. i'm thinking of the speech in france. >> well, first of all, i have worked for several remarkable presidents. president carter and president clinton who i think defined america's purpose well. but i do think there is something spectacular about president obama. first of all, his election, which i think speaks very, very well for the american people and for are, as americans, the voters' ability to see what a really good and fine man and intelligent man he is. i think he has also tackled issues in a very head on way. i was fascinated by, for instance, you remember the issues at notre dame, whether he should go speak there. he's not somebody who avoids issues. so the speech in cairo, i think, was remarkable because our basic problem is what our relatnship is with the muslim... i hate to say muslim world because it's
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diverse. but he really... i thought that was a great speech. i think non-proliferation speeches ete u.n. a couple of weeks ago.... >> rose: about multilateralism. >> when he said flat out, you know, if you are going to criticize us for going it alone and unilateral, then you have to help. and then he... so he has a very, very good and direct way. but some of it is just him. i think he is a remarkable person. and his own history and background and his ability to articulate what partnership is about without denigrating the role of the united states. i think he sees strength in partnering. so i think he's done a great job. >> rose: all right. you know who's getting a lot of respect, obviously, is the person you supported, secretary clinton. i mean, clearly across the board in terms of... she's impressing a lot of people. with her toughness and at the same time according to those people that are with her, that she is, someone said, in any
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room that she is, she's the best informed person there. >> she definitely is. she is a very hard worker. she studies things. she's very, very focused. and she's a problem sovr. she is not somebody that's in it about herself. i mean, i am very prejudiced. she's a very, very good friend and somebody i'm very glad to see in public service and she is somebody who know it is issues, who cares about knowing the issues. and she is somebody who represents our country well. i think that she also shows what it's like to have kind of a mixture of toughness and personal relationships and a sense of passion about what she's doing. >> rose: where is she on the afghan debate? >> i don't... they're all talking about it. let me just say, i'm not in these meetings and what i presume is going on.... >> rose: but you talk to people who are in the meetings. >> i think the part charlie that is so important here that people need to understand is that when you are in the meetings, what
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you do is you stlit with people that you know well and you argue out the issues and you actually listen to what the other person isssg on. at least that's something that we did, whether we were talking about whether we should go into kosovo or not. we had endless meetings. and people stated their views and we would say "i disagree with you. why don't you give me as what you see as the facts?" and i think that's what's going on. so i think they are doing what is required of a national security team, which is responsible decision making. >> rose: the president. what are the options for him? >> well, i think the options are... i don't happen to think it's an option, but to leave totally. i think that's something that's obviously.... >> rose: he's almost said that's a straw man. he said we're not going to... >> right. and i think the point here.... >> rose:... choose between going in with a hundred thousand troops... >> right. so i do think he has to as president think about what is good for america. what is the national security
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interest. >> rose: but that's clear, isn't it? shouldn't everybody in the highest levels of government think about what's in the national interest of america? >> that is theoretically what people are elected to do. but they somehow sometimes bring in opinions that others criticize. i happen to think that we need to remember why we went to into afghanistan in the first place. it was over 9/11. and the people that hit us came from there and therefore eliminating al qaeda in afghanistan is absolutely crucial. the question for me-- and i speak only for myself-- is to what extent does the taliban create a haven for al qaeda. they did create a haven for osama bin laden. and so the question is how much you try to do in terms of lessening the influence of the taliban without saying that we have to run the whole country. then there's the issue of pakistan. and i think that is the more serious aspect of this. because that is a country that has so many issues and are close
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friends of ours that it creates a huge level of responsibility in terms of they have nuclear weapons, they have dealings with these issues of terrorism, they have, extremism, a weak government in a very bad location. so the president has to look at those issues together. and i think that what one has to do is look at... rather than saying counterterrorism versus counterinsurgency, is that there's some plend of those in terms of trying to come up.... >> rose: but there's no halfway place to be, is there? you can't say well, we ought to... or not? i mean, is there a meeting of minds on this? is there a compromise solution that's in the best interest of our national security in afghanistan? >> that i believe... first of all, there is nothing about this that is easy. i mean, we all know that. >> rose: that's why he's in the oval office. >> it's very, very hard and i think there has to be some way without my knowing what the numbers are where there will be a sufficient force to be able to have some counterinsurgency
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versus some aspects of the taliban and various population centers and then some counterterrorism. >> rose: you seem to be saying that you buy the argument that we have to contain the taliban, we can't destroy them and that they've made significant ground and they will occupy a significant part of afghanistan. >> well, i think it depends on which parts, that's the problem. and that's the issue. >> rose: well, it's not kabul, obviously. >> we now have a different set of circumstances because president karzai has just accepted a runoff election. so there will be that as i gather on november 7. there will be a different political context. the question is how we work. we do need some government there to work with. and then some level of troops to try to contain and make sure that the taliban do not continue oro not resurrect themselves as a haven for al qaeda. but al qaeda is the problem. and al qaeda is who hit us, and al qaeda is what the president
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has said that has to be dismantled and destroyed. that is what the president has said. >> rose: is there something emerging called an obama doctrine? like an arab engagement or something? >> iry anything's a doctrine until later. but i would say that what his m.o. is is that.... >> rose: very good, yes. (laughs) >> he is somebody who feels comfortable in dealing with people that he disagrees with. of engaging. and with the iranians, for instance. that it is worth talking to your enemies or talking to... laying down your arguments and understanding and sitting across from the table with somebody that he has major disagreements with and partnership. i think there really is a sense that the u.s.-- and, again, i think he's a very good protector of u.s. national interests and that he believes that it is... we best protect ourselves in partnerships with other countries.
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>> rose: iran. are you disappointed that the russians did not... were not more successful in getting them to support strong saplgss? >> well, i'm not sure i quite understand what happened, charlie. because they said they were going to commit themselves to a sanctions regime. they did want to have some kind of... these talks that are going on. and i think that there probably are things that they say in public and things that they say in private. >> rose: meaning they're saying things in private like "maybe we'll come around and support sanctions if everything else seems to have failed"? >> i would think something like that is going on. because they also are... they have their audiences that they talk to. they are trying to see whether they can have some relationship with iran that is different over some of the exchanges of fuel. so i would be willing... what i also think, charlie, is a lot of this is about what's going on in russia. president medvedev said one
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thing to president obama. prime minister putin is saying something somewhere else. and so i would look at some of the political issues that are going on in russia as.... >> rose: what do you think is going on?f?>> i think it's hard. i think that president medvedev is stating his views and prime minister putin... they've just had an election there with p.m. putin's party did very well. and guess what? president gorbachev said that it was a bad election. >> rose: i saw that today. >> so there are a lot of very different things going on there. and i do think that there is some competition. >> rose: and the chinese? >> well, the chinese are... you know, any time anybody talks about them they say rising. they are playing more and more of a role everywhere. we want them to play a global role. but they have a very specific relationship with iran, too. and i think that russia.... >> rose: it's mainly about energy. and there was interesting development this week in which there were reports that perhaps there was some deal to try to
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say to the chinese "we'll make sure that all the oil you expected to come from iran, there's a substitute provider q. and if that's true, could we get you to look at the iranian sanction issue with more of a positive attitude?" >> i think it's possible. >> rose: that's diplomacy at its best, isn't it? >> that's the kind of thing you do. part of the thing that's happening is we are... at least as one reads about it, tre's an attempt to get the iraqi oil online. there are other places. and i think that there are ways... the chinese are energy hungry. but they also do develop their own relationships. i think the part that people need to unrstand is that you don't agree with every policy of every country of this new kind of multipolar world. and they are many policies on which we will agree with the chinese and some where we have different intests. and this is what diplomacy is about. rose: what's interesting about all this, almost, in some strange way, is that we heard
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and you have articulated and the president articulated the idea of multilateralism. and how important it is we work with the chinese on north korea. and the same thing... we engage the iranians. if you asked the iranians what they want, they want to talk directly to the united states.h? they want to talk directly to the united states. they want to engame in bilateral talks. >> well, they do. office we did talk to the north koreans on a bilateral basis. but ultimately it's not a choice between bilateral and multilateral. you have to use both. and we cannot deal with nuclear proliferation issues by ourselves, even if we're the strongest country in the world, because there are a lot of other players in this. so i think that they do want bilateral talks and they're taking place... at least from what we read. there are talk talks on the margins where the americans talk about other issues either with north korea or with iran. but ultimately to get the good
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cop/bad cop aspect of this, which is the sanctions, you need to have multilateral actions. >> rose: the united states should come up with its own ideas as to what the middle east peace process ought to look like. and try to make it happen. >> i think we know what it looks like. >> rose: well why don't we say that and say this is what our objective is? >> i think there is an attempt first to get... it's almost kind of like saying gee, why don't you figure it out what it is we really know. >> rose: but george mitchell knows basically where it ought to be. and so does madeleine albright and so does barack obama and so does hillary clinton. they would all agree, wouldn't they? >> but i think there's a lot going on behind the scenes in terms of saying "well, what do you think about this? what do you think about that?" and bringing them closer and closer together. i think it's very hard for the tous say "this is it, take it or leave it." because we know about the political difficulties that are on the palestinian side and the
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various issues on the israeli side. but i think that they are presenting these ideas and moving the process forward. it's not looking particularly good at the moment, i have to say. >> rose: because? >> because of the fact that mahmoud abbas, thee palestinians.... >> rose: palestinian authority... >> gave in as from the perspective of hamas on some issues to do with the feze of the settlements by the israelis. so he was criticized. that made it difficult for him. and p.m. netanyahu has a very complicated coalition. so they are in a deadlock. >> rose: so he can't go any further on set. ments, is that your point? >> that's what he thinks. he put together a coalition with lieberman and various... so they've got complicated issues. but i do think what is interesting is the palestinians with the prime minister have begun to treat the west bank saying they have to structure
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themselves as a functional society. there are jobs.... >> rose: we're going to act like a state even though we have not achieved statehood. >> right. and that they are creating jobs and trying to figure out how to work and appeal to the voters because what happened is hamas was actually doing constituey services. >> rose:? gaza better. >> and did better than the palestinian authority at the time. >> rose: we could go on and on and i thank you for coming. >> thanks, charlie >> rose: pleasure, i like your pin, too. >> thanks. good workout. thank you. >> rose: we'll be right back. stay with us. >> rose: taylor branch is here, during bill clinton's tenure in the white house he enjoyed extraordinary access to the president. the two men met in secret on 79 different occasions for recorded conversations. until now, the contents of those interviews were kept even from clinton's closest advisors, although the original tapes were made in the former president's possession, taylor branch has
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compiled his notes from the meetings into a single volume. it is called "the clinton tapes: wrestling history with the presidency." over the years, president clintohas hat at this table three times. here's a look at some of those appearances. >> this whole election will be determined in part by what you thinkdo do. and whether you want a president... and what you want them do based on what they have done and whether you think it matters that... i mean, in theory no experience matters. in theory, we could find someone who is gifted television commentator.... >> rose: you think? >>... and let them run. they'd have only one year less experience in national politics and so i'm just saying... but i don't want to be flippant here. there are a lot of people who honestly believe what you have
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ne for other people in your public life.... >> rose: or your private life. >> is completely irrelevant. >> rose: and you don't? >> >> that what matters is what you symbolize. no, i don't. so i had a certain kind of intelligence and a certain emotional predisposition and i always kind of got people, i got what was going on. and i think that it's really... it stood me in good said the in politics. and as i said, this idea that i was obsessed with my legacy is already... i read enough history to know that my legacy won't be fixed for a hundred years and i'll be long dead and so will most of my critics and somebody that lets the dust settle will see. so i always kept score in a totally different way. the way i kept score was the way i was raised to keep score. that people have better stories than they did before i started and i think they did and i feel really good about it. >> rose: do you remember every line of every elvis song? >> no, but i remember a lot of
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them. >> rose: would you just hum one to give us a sense of your favorite? we were listening to a little elvis as we were going out here. >> but you know i don't have a voice, i'm too hoarse. >> rose: give us your best elvis. >> my best elvis weak tonight. >> rose: all right. >> note gloat you know i can be found ♪ sitting home allut come arount please telephone ♪ my message to the new york press. ♪ don't be cruel... >> rose: (laughs) >> i'm too horse. >> rose: welcome. >> thank you, charlie, nice to be here. >> rose: you spent a lot of time with the guy we just saw. >> a lot of time. >> rose: when did you first know him? >> first a it will until the anti-war movement when there weren't very many southerners involved in it and he would come to meetings during the vietnam war as the guy who new was fulbright was thinking, because he worked for him, they were both from arkansas. i knew time just well enough to that when gary hart asked each
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of us if we were willing to go into texas to run the '72 mcgovern campaign in texas with each other-- because he wanted co-coordinators-- we both said we were comfortable working with the other. and we went down to austin, texas, and lived together and worked together in that memorable shellacing that we took from richard nixon in 1972. then i didn't see him for 20 years. the next time i saw him was at kate graham's dinner when he was president-elect. in. >> rose: so tell me what he was like. >> i assume that he had been processed into a politician with slogans and was no longer my young friend. when i saw him at kay graham's he said "can you believe all this? surrounded by secret service, surrounded by the cream of washington?" and instantly there was something of the same guy that i had always known. and then within a minute he awed me on two respects. he said "i've only got a
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minute." people were crowding toward him. the secret service was holding him away. he said "i want you to do two things for me if you can. i'm worried about the legacy that i'm going to... the records that will be used to tell the story of what i'm going to do. and i read your "parting the waters" about the king era and the footnotes you did from thes. will the record that i'm keeping now that historians will be able to bring alive what i'm going to do 50 years from now. think about that for me. and also think about what it means that two southerners-- me and al gore-- are no, ma'am elected president and vice president so soon after the civil rights movement. what does that mean in the cycles of american hisly. " and i was just impressed that he was thinking about things like that before he had even taken office. >> rose: he said he didn't think much about legacy but he was thinking about legacy from the very beginning. >> well, it depends on how you look at it. if you say "legacy" meaning how
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am i going to look? that one thing. that makes it selfish, and i'm sure there's some of that in there, too. he's also saying he believes the presidency is important and he wants people to have a full human record of what the president does, good or bad. i warned him, i said "if you're worried about trying to make yourself look good, you cannot do a contemporaneous record about hindsight and be guaranteed you're going to be saying the right thing. people may come along later and think you're an idiot. >> rose: how did you go from the meeting at kay graham's dinner party to the first session in the white house? >> it took a lot of discussions. he first talked to me about going on his staff and becoming like an arthur jess jer to gather the record. >> rose: arthur schlesinger was there for jack kennedy. >> for jack kennedy. and i didn't want to do that. i told him i didn't think it was a good model for history. that you'd have to sit there for four or eight years and be... and fight for access and be regarded as an in-house
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historian. that he shouldn't worry about controlling the history, he should just keep the best records possible. and he said "well, i can't tape my phone conversations." and i said "that's a terrible tragedy, because it's the greatest record for a people's president ever discovered. but it's already extinct." >> rose: a victim of watergate. >> a victim of watergate. and this diary, this oral history, was the best remedialss really immediate about what was on his mind that was not in the public record that would be available for future historians. it took us a long time to figure out how to do it, what was safe, how to keep it secret. i don't say in the book but i'm very proud of the fact that we kept this thing secret. >> rose: well, meaning you. it's mainly you that would keep it secret, isn't it? you would expect him to. the question wld be the person who... >> right. >> rose:... from the outside. >> i couldn't talk about it. it even impacted my relationship with you. i don't know if you remember
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that but once i came on this show and i had written an article about him and you and i were going back and forth about what i knew about clinton and i couldn't tell you, charlie, i'd been meeting him. >> rose: i remember. i remember. (laughs) i don't forget that. but i'm glad you're here now. what i don't understand is why he doesn't want to see those tapes released. >> oh, i think he does. it's just a question of when. >> rose: well, but... >> hillary's still in politics. >> rose: ah. >> if i had to guess i would say as soon as hillary is retired from politics and either out of the state department or definitely not going to run for president i think he will open them up in the library. listen, that was the reason that he did this was so that they would be available to historians. and i think he would like to have historians be able to have them while there are people still around to bounce it off of. so i would be very surprised if he doesn't open them up in his library pretty soon after hillary retires. >> rose: tell me the essence of this remarkable marriage.
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remarkable in every dimension. >> absolutely. well, she was only involved in our sessions intermittently. she would come in and out. sometimes she'd just sit there and literally hold hands while he's talking. just like that, she'd be standing right next to you, we'd be talking. it didn't terribly surprise me, although a lot of this is going against my images of how processed they were. but they were justd collegial. they would finish one another's sentences. she was involved in everything he did. she gave frank opinions on every matter before him. is there were times that i was very surprised. she was much more strident in her defense of him in the impeachment than he was. >> rose: expressed in what way? >> he would say "impeachment is political. if they want to throw me out of office, they can find a way to do it." and she would say "bill, that's wrong. impeachment is about abuse of
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power. it is about the constitutional system. and if you impeach and convict a president on something thatas nothing to do with the exercise of presidential power, you are messing up our constitutional system. this is wrong." for the same reason, she was the most vociferous opponent of his agreement to have the whitewater special prosecutor. she said "you are weakening future presidents. just because there's a great clamor to have this and everybody's saying get the facts out...". >> rose: she was probably right, wasn't she? >> she was right. but there was a huge clamor, everybody was saying "this is the only way to end it. what do you have to hide?" and he gave in to that. she said he was wrong. so... but i don't want to portray the whole thing as argumentative, it was argumentative if it needed to be and... but... they were pretty warm partnership. >> rose: and his relationship to vice president gore? >> well, that's a long story.
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sometimes very close, sometimes admiring. clinton often says here that gore knew more about government and saved him from making a lot of mistakes, more mistakes than he did early on. >> rose: especially foreign policy. >> especially in foreign policy. gore was much funnier with clinton in the few times i saw them together. recruiting members for his people when he was on the telephone and mimicking being out on a deep sea fishing boat and laugh and i just about got him, here, you take him, you can get him. very funny. but they did have this conversation that i didn't even know about. again, this is... i didn't know to ask.... >> rose: this came from one of your conversations with him? >> toward the end, he said "i want to put this on the record that al gore came in and we had a donnybrook about the 2000 election, who was responsible.
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and he just started saying..." and to be fair, clinton's pretty good on these things. when he's having arguments with people, he gives their side, too he ed "this is what al said, this is what i said." al blamed me for losing the election because it was the clinton scandal fatigue. and i said he lann away from our record and it went back and forth from there and it was pretty raw. >> rose: look at this. this is an interview i did with him about the very same thing. here it is. you were not part of the debate in campaign 2000. >> i don't know. but i'll tell you exactly what happed in arkansas, which i do not know until i got down there and it was too late. the n.r.a. beat him in arkansas. the n.r.a. and raffle nader... ralph nader stand right behind the supreme court in their ability to claim that they put george bush in the white house. i mean, basically i could show you a lot of empirical evidence, you just have to trust me, i know my state.
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>> rose: i trust you know your politics is what i trust. >> and if i had... couldn't have turned it with a few speeches. if i had known how big the n.r.a. problem was, could i have gone down there and spent three days calling people on the phone and hauling people in and talking to them and turned it? probably. but i didn't know that. >> rose: so great admiration for what al gore had done to him as an advisor. he bridled at the notion that he could have played a bigger role in:yt he broker somebody to do that? i've never understood why somebody didn't go to al gore with great... who was close to al gore and said "you're making the biggest mistake of your political life not using the best piece of political talent this country has at the time." >> well marx from what the president said, that is president clinton, al gore had a lot of people around him who were telling him just the opposite. >> rose: he's toxic. >> he's a miltone around your neck and everywhere we go, that's all people say.
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president clinton felt that al gore was a victimized by a washington point of view that the clinton fatigue and the... that was not so.... >> rose: more washington than around the country. >> more washington than around the country and that al gore fell victim to it through his advisors. >> rose: you were living in baltimore at the time. >> i was living in baltimore. i still am. >> rose: you go to the white house. >> i would get a call late in the afternoon, usually at the last minute. "can you come down tonight, there's a hole in his schedule. we don't want you in the west wink wing, we want you in the residence because we don't want the staff seeing you. come down tonight and bring your materials." i would bring my notes and two little recorders and sit and wait for him and some room in the residence, a t retreating room or dining room or little kitchen. i would set up my recorders and say whenever he was ready "mr. president, this is session number 40, oral history number 41, such and such a date, this
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is what's happened in the last month, let's stewart so and so." and he would either say "the public record is pretty good on that, i don't have much to add to it." or he would say "that has absolutely nothing do with what really happened, let me tell you what really happened. senator byrd started talking about..." or whatever and we'd be off to the races. >> rose: your since was he simply wanted to tell what happened from his perspective? >> his point of view that was not on the public record. he wanted to make sure that it was theren... as... in its richness, you know? in human dynamics. >> rose: and what did he want to talk about? >> you know, he always prided himself on the ability to marry analysis. he was very cerebral and he loved being a wonk. but he said wonkism won't get you very far unless you can make a personal connection with somebody. and going into rooms and make personal connections with strangers and... he was famous for that. but he neat he had to do that
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with foreign leaders, political leaders, too, and marry them together. in fact, he shaed the president of china, jiang zemin, frustrated him the most in that regard. he tried for years to make some sort of... know something about his family, about his sense of humor, some way to have a personal connection with him that he could use to advance a common agenda and all the great issues between the united states and china and he had a really hard time. >> rose: could not break through? >> could not break through. he was very opaque. he said this relationship with jiang zemin is my greatest failure in foreign policy to date. >> rose: how did you decide what to include in this. >> >> this book is a couple of things. it's conveying to the reader what it's like that go into the white house an sit with the president so they can be there with me. and to some degree in my mind-- because my main role is to get this down in history-- but if he's asking me questions and asking me my opinion, the a ra por i have with him affects my ability to get out information on the record.
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so i went back and forth. and i had many doubts about what to do. about what course to take. but i felt i owed him my best advice. the other part of the book, of course, is just trying to summarize what he's saying and how his mind works. and how he reacts to things. and that you never knew because there would be these endless mixtures of events and he would be in different moods and chelsea would come in and ask for help with her home work and you never cod tell what was going to happen when you're with the president trying to put this record together. >> rose: there was one time that heenp because leapted to help her do something, wasn't it? >> yes. during the government shutdown, when the republicans shut down the government, clinton canceled a trip to japan. and it was a big economic summit and al gore went instead and came back and said "you have insulted these leaders, they have terrible problems, too. and they were saying screw his government shutdown, he should be here.
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the prime minister of australia and otherwise. and he said the japanese are very sensitive people, mr. president, you have injured them. you have to go there now go. there in january. you don't have anything on your schedule in the middle of january." and clinton said "yes, but those are chelsea's junior year midterms. and hillary has to go with me and i'm not going to go over there and leave her here... chelsea here to take those midterms by herself. those are the most significant midterms in high school." and gore... he said gore looked at me like i was a martian and said "mr. president, i'm talking about the relations with japan, one of our major allies and you're talking about high school exams?" and clinton said "al, i don't care wt you're talking about, i am not going to leave chelsea alone." and they had a big fight about that. so..and he didn't go to japan until april. so, yes. for better or worse-- and people can debate who had the better of that argument-- he and gore had
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a tempestuous relationship and gore was giving him his best advice. sppl. >> rose: what are his flaws? >> well, by his own admission the a lack of... a tendency to feel sorry for himself and a lack of discipline to fulfill his major mission, which he described as to restore for the american people a sense of common purpose and nobility about politics that we've had for most of our history but have lost for the last fewla that gos bad, both from the right and the left. and he was trying to say "we can accomplish things, we can end the deficit that nobody thought we could, we can create jobs, we can do things for women and children." >> rose: a road map to the 21st century. >> a road map to the 21st century that will restore people's confidence in politics. it was constantly opposed by people who were saying "yes, but
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travelgate, whitewater, all these things, government is inherently in our face." and he fought against that for all these years and then rescued or gave succor to the very cynicism that he was fighting by the monica lewinsky scandal and he knows that. and he said it was... it was self-pity and weakness. but in a way at a point when he had fought aa long fight to try to restore the capacity of government to be more of a positive role in american politics, he gave away a chance be triumphant in that fight by validating all of this cynicism about him that had dominated his presidency and that he railed against in so many of our sessions. >> rose: but was that a reluctant conversation on his part? i mean... >> well, his... his... he was never reluctant to fuss about or to theorize about why the news
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media or particularly the "new york times" and the "washington post"-- which he admired-- he said "you and i, taylor, have admired these papers all our lives. why are they leading the charge on chinagate and all these?" he was never reluctant to talk about that although his theories went all over the place. he was reluctant to talk about monoa lewinsky and it was a ve personal.... >> rose: because it was painful or because it had such consequences or because... >> because it was embarrassing and it was painful and because he knew that it gave away the store as far as his ability to lead the country to rise above cynicism.e cynicism that he was trying to fight. it said presidents are not uplifting for the country, they're selfish and weak and this... and corrupt. and he was trying to fight against all of that by saying, look, most of the people i know
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public life are trying to do pretty good things and we've really gotten infected with the notion.... >> rose: and he couldn't make that argument after... >> he couldn't ma that i can argument. >> rose: because of what went on in the white house. >> and he worked really hard and most of the things that had been used to prop up that argument and to prop up the special prosecutor, ken starr, ultimately turned out to be base which would have vindicated him along with his record. i mean, you know, 4.6% unemployment and 20 million jobs and virtually wiping out the national debt and that looks pretty good now. but we don't talk about any of that because of lewinsky. and lewinsky just subsumed.... >> rose: but there was also lying. lying to friends and lying to other people. you had insight. you had opportunity that no one else had. >> well, you know, i did... i talked... obviously i had misgivings about how much... you know, how much of this i should
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pursue. we weren't supposed to talk about whitewater because of.... >> rose: legal implications. >> because of legal implications but we did you have the tapes and i could have more. and i don't want to talk too much about monica lewinsky because, quite frankly, i'm squeamish about it and i was afraid that it would injure the overall project if i upset him. you know, i will confess that. but i did talk some, which was when he was... when he said he felt sorry for himself and he cracked and so on and so forth. >> rose: i saw that. i don't understand what cracked meant. >> crackedt- i'm speaking very hypothetically here because i don't really know and i probably shouldn't at all-- but i think compared to his past he had made a superhuman resolve that the the stakes were too high and he shouldn't have any of these shenanigans in the white house. and compared to his previous
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life, he had been very successful in that. i mean, being president phenomenon was enough and that there were... there was no straying. and that that resolve cracked when he felt sorry for himself. and he said he felt sorry for himself in two ways. you know, the monica lewinsky... i didn't really realize it until i was looking back in the book. it's a very odd... on top of everything else it was very odd because it was a period of kind of flirting and association and then a year where it was broken off and then she came back when it was consummated, if you will, whatever, in another short and furtive time in '97. the first one was when he was feeling sorry for himself for losing the congress. and the second one was when he was feeling sorry for himself because he thought reelection in 1996 was going to validate his popular mandate and make all these things go away. and instead starr and whitewater morphed into chinagate and
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allegations that the chinese had bought nuclear secrets and that al gore was off in a buddhist temple and he just said "it's never going to go away and i felt sorry for myself again." so he at least provided some context for it. but not an elaborate explanation. i asked him right at the end of his presidency. i apologized saying that as a friend i didn't press him or invite him to talk about monica lewinsky as much as i should have. but i didn't... i was unsure about what would be good for the presidency, what would be good for the record, what would endanger the presidency if it got subpoenaed. and that sort of thing.e3y goodk about that, th i did right, i wouldn't have gotten any more information. i don't know whether that's true or not and it doesn't absolve me if i should have pressed harder on that but i didn't. >> rose: and it should be understood that what you're talking about is eight years of a remarkably interesting man in
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the seat of power in a whole range of things happening of which this was only one small part. people can weigh how they consider the value of that or the weight of that. but it was, you know, when you talk about middle east peac and when you talk about health care and when you talk about welfare reform and when you talk about trade and when you talk about an economy that goes from a deficit to a surplus, you're talking about a whole range of things that primarily occupy somebody's time. >> absolutely. not to mention his amazing all kinds of observations of people that he's dealingith, with newt gingrich and bob dole and trent lott and all of the peep... the pope. you know, constant recitations of his consultations and interactions.... >> rose: what was the most interesting of those? because we can't go through all of them. but in terms of sort of a right-on, spot-on analysis of somebody who was within his circle, friend or foe
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>> i would say the pope was the most surprising to me because he went... ran down... first of all, he had several different summits with open t pope. they're normally very circumspect and what's released and they were in this case, too. but he was pretty candid in the book saying that the pope surprised him even on abortion and especially on women's rights that the pope was saying that the hope for uncontrolled pregnancies was the education of women. that the more they controlled the families and the better educated they were-- i don't know exactly how they're going to keep from having those babies buta contraception in itself. >> the pope would say tell me how you see the world and push him on cuba, that the pope was talking to president clinton about trying to end sanctions against cuba. even though it's a communist regime because he thought it was a senseless policy that hurt the
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poor. there was a lot of candor in there about the pope and the pope's mind and the president at the end of one of conversations said "i sure as hell would hate to be running against him for mayor anywhere." this guy has a really good sense of presidential election on top of everything else. >> what else comes out of this book in your recollection is that he was a politician. and in the best sense of that word. >> he's someone who serves the public good and likes the process. >> and i think it ott bothers him in our modern culture-- and this is part of the cynicism-- that a politician has such a negative connotation in our culture. because to him george washington's a politician, abraham lincoln's a politician. >> rose: franklin roosevelt. >> theodore roosevelt, who's the president through here that he identifies with most. because it was not a major war crisisut a time of trying to
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retool for a new world, retool for the industrial age of moving forward and to take america on to the world stage, which is what theodore roosevelt did i the progressive era. by analogy, clinton thought that was the closest thing that he had to do was that we're going into the cyber age and the world's getting small and we've got to have american leadership? a new way. >> rose: what did he think the gifts were? >> well, one of them was that ability to measure the abstract reading of policy, to mar they with personal interactions with people. that he could interact with people and figure out what makes them tick. someone like lyndon johnson who doesn't get enough credit for his sae johnson treatment. well, clinton really believed in that. and there are a lot of remarkable passages in the book where he's talking about his relationship with adversaries li bob dole and newt gingrich. he doesn't begrudge them cutting
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him apart. within the fraternity of politicians, he says that's their job. they're trying to get elected. what i begrudge is that they consistently don't want to fight on politics, they want to fight on personal issues and side issues and tabloid issues. because they have more confidence that they can win there. and his bigger complaint was that the press would go along with them. and he would try to figure out why. >> rose: and his attitude about the press was? >> in the first few years he railed and screamed like a lot of other presidents and i'm sitting there saying "don't do that." (laughs) he thought they were in cahoots with his political allies. >> rose: really. no, opponents. >> i'm sorry, with his political opponents. then he said, you know, maybe they're having their own problems and the tabloid stories are easy to do and they sell more, maybe they're insecure. and in some ways he anticipated some of the structural problems
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of the modern press. he was constantly worrying about that because he did a they that he... unlike political opponents who he expected, there were several times where he said "if i were them, i'd be doing the same thing, i respect political survival, that's what the name of the game. is it's almost like a lawyer on the opposing side." he had a remarkably collegial relationship with somebody like trent lott who would say terrible things about him in public and he would say to trent according to him, "you really cut me up today but i'd have done the same thing." but with the press, he idealized them so much but tla he was much more disappointed that they weren't helping to set a more serious agenda through the clinton years than they did wit foster and things like whether or not he may have killed his own best friend who committed suicide and the constant preoccupation with things like that. >> rose: the book is called "the clinton tapes: wrestling history where the president."
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wrestling? >> he is wrestling there. i was just talking about him literally wrestling with how do you change the perception of politics and wrestling... a lot of our contemporary politics today is wrestling over what we mean by our history. does it see that we should be optimistic about the capacity of government. >> rose: "wrestling history with the president." an insight into the 42nd president of the united states while he was in office. in conversations that took place when the memory is fresh and the motive is less. my thanks to taylor branch. thank you for joining us. see you next time. captioning sponsored by rose communications
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captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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